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Publisher's Summary

“Defiantly populated with living women...beautifully drawn, dense with detail and specificity...Notes on an Execution is nuanced, ambitious, and compelling.” (Katie Kitamura, New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice)

"A searing portrait of the complicated women caught in the orbit of a serial killer.... Compassionate and thought-provoking." (Brit Bennett, number one New York Times best-selling author of The Vanishing Half)

Recommended by New York Times Book Review • Los Angeles Times • Entertainment Weekly • Esquire • Good Housekeeping • BuzzFeed • Business Insider • Bustle • Goodreads • The Millions • The Philadelphia Inquirer • Minneapolis Star-Tribune • San Francisco Chronicle • The Guardian • PopSugar •  Literary Hub • and many more!

In the tradition of Long Bright River and The Mars Room, a gripping and atmospheric work of literary suspense that deconstructs the story of a serial killer on death row, told primarily through the eyes of the women in his life - from the best-selling author of Girl in Snow.

Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in 12 hours. He knows what he’s done, and now awaits execution, the same chilling fate he forced on those girls, years ago. But Ansel doesn’t want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood. 

Through a kaleidoscope of women - a mother, a sister, a homicide detective - we learn the story of Ansel’s life. We meet his mother, Lavender, a 17-year-old girl pushed to desperation; Hazel, twin sister to Ansel’s wife, inseparable since birth, forced to watch helplessly as her sister’s relationship threatens to devour them all; and finally, Saffy, the detective hot on his trail, who has devoted herself to bringing bad men to justice but struggles to see her own life clearly. As the clock ticks down, these three women sift through the choices that culminate in tragedy, exploring the rippling fissures that such destruction inevitably leaves in its wake. 

Blending breathtaking suspense with astonishing empathy, Notes on an Execution presents a chilling portrait of womanhood as it simultaneously unravels the familiar narrative of the American serial killer, interrogating our system of justice and our cultural obsession with crime stories, asking listeners to consider the false promise of looking for meaning in the psyches of violent men.

"Poetic and mesmerizing.... Powerful, important, intensely human, and filled with a unique examination of tragedy, one where the reader is left with a curious emotion: hope." (USA Today)

“A profound and staggering experience of empathy that challenges us to confront what it means to be human in our darkest moments.... I relished every page of this brilliant and gripping masterpiece." (Ashley Audrain, New York Times best-selling author of The Push)

©2022 Danya Kukafka (P)2022 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Notes on an Execution

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Outstanding

The writing was outstanding! The different POVs and backstory was exceptionally written. I highly recommend it for your next listen.

7 people found this helpful

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  • LS
  • 02-02-22

Beware of the second person singular here!

Ew! Narration uses the "you" form for (who knows what) purpose. Talk about distracting. Why on earth would you make the main character speak in the second person singular? The narrative is pretty predictable with a boilerplate plot. Totally skippable.

6 people found this helpful

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Intense!! Well written, well performed.

The narration is well suited to the material, which is dark and intense. There’s a “dead man walking” feel to it, in terms of looking without flinching at the brutality of violent crime, and how it effects everyone around it. Really good listen!

5 people found this helpful

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strong writing

4.75/5 stars.

if you’re in the mood for a crime fiction that doesn’t focus so much on the graphic violence while still feeling real & heavy, then “Notes on an Execution” by Danya Kukafka.

the characters are very well crafted & each person feels so real even if they are not lovable characters. overall, it’s one of the very few crime novels I’ve read that feel like what knowing someone you care about is capable of such cruelty feels like.

3 people found this helpful

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Not quite sure about this one

I enjoyed this book untill last hour or so. The endless moralisation at the end was excessive and it turned me off. That's why I am giving it 3 stars instead of 4 (as I initially intended).
I respect that author wanted to stress the importance of victims, their families and friends rather than making it all about the 'boogey man', the killer. At the same time I missed at least some criticism about the society or/and system or/and death penalty. I cannot agree with her permise that it is not important to ask ourselves: 'WHY has a monster become a monster'?
You know, wink wink, there is another book about teenager serial killer called Kevin - just go and read that one before you start stating too loud how good is this one.

2 people found this helpful

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Weird

Not sure what I expected from this. What it shows early on is that nature and nurture affect the mental health of a child very early. I did noy enjoy this book. It had its value in some parts.


RECIMMENDATION: MAYBE

2 people found this helpful

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Remarkable.

This story is beautiful, brutal and perfect. The writing is lyrical and moving, the characters round and ripe. I’m only sorry I can’t hear it again for the first time.

2 people found this helpful

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very well done

A fascinating look at crime, it's victims, not only those killed, but their families and their killers. It is told from multiple POV but that's what makes it work. Each person's story is told from how they might have felt. For the killer, how they justified what they did in their own mind. Even though it ends with the death penalty, it is not about the death penalty.
idk if this book would be as effective read but I listened to the audio version.

1 person found this helpful

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Great book from start to finish

Nature or nurture? Humans are so complex and this book dives straight into the deep end. Told in each person’s voice, from their point of view. It’s tragically thoughtful. I really enjoyed it.

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Complex Emotional Read

A complex book that follows the lives of children together in foster care. It is a book meant to deglamorize serial killers which focuses on one. Lots of dread but little gore. Many important issues laid out. Really well read!